Thursday, May 6, 2004; 4:07 PM
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Philadelphia Flyers
2003-04 series record: Tampa Bay, 4-0.
How they got here: Tampa Bay beat No. 8 New York Islanders 4-1, and No. 7 Montreal 4-0; Philadelphia beat No. 6 New Jersey 4-1, and No. 4 Toronto 4-2.
Playoff History: Philadelphia, 1-0.
Last meeting: Philadelphia 4-2 in 1996 first round.
TAMPA BAY: The Lightning have won seven straight games, dating to Game 2 loss at home to Islanders. Vincent Lecavalier recovered from a pointless opening round to dominate Montreal with five goals and two assists. Nikolai Khabibulin posted three shutouts against the Islanders and opened the Montreal series with another blanking. He allowed just five goals to Montreal and has a 0.99 goals-against average in nine playoff games this year. Martin St. Louis didn't have any goals against the Canadiens, but he assisted on six of the 14 scored by his teammates in the second round. St. Louis is tied with Fredrik Modin with a team-high 11 points in the postseason. Tampa Bay is in conference finals for the first time in its 12-year history. The Lightning never won a playoff series until last season. St. Louis had three goals and five assists against Philadelphia in regular season.
PHILADELPHIA: Already dealing with loss of D Eric Desjardins to season-ending injury, the Flyers took another hit when top D Kim Johnsson missed first three games against Toronto because of broken left hand. He returned and got closer to his regular level of play as series progressed. In Game 5, D Vladimir Malakhov took a hit from Darcy Tucker that left him with a concussion and out of Game 6. He should be ready for Tampa Bay, allowing Sami Kapanen to concentrate on being a forward and not a defensive replacement. Surprising G Robert Esche also should be fine for the Flyers, making their 14th trip to conference finals but first since 2000. Esche was shaken by a shot off his mask and a touch of the flu that limited him to one period in Game 5. He returned for Game 6 and made 34 saves; has a 2.02 GAA. Alex Zhamnov has a team-high four goals and 12 points. Jeremy Roenick also has four goals, including the overtime score that ended the Toronto series. The Flyers are 6-0 at home in these playoffs but don't have home-ice advantage for first time. They have scored the first goal in 10 of 11 games. John LeClair has only one assist in playoffs, but had four goals and two assists when teams met in 1995.
OUTLOOK: Tampa Bay looked like a No. 1 seed through first two rounds. Philadelphia appears to be on a mission.
Prediction: Flyers in 6.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Detroit Red Wings vs. Calgary Flames
2003-04 series record: Tied, 2-2.
How they got here: San Jose beat No. 7 St. Louis 4-1, and No. 4 Colorado 4-2; Calgary beat No. 3 Vancouver 4-3, and No. 1 Detroit 4-2.
Playoff History: San Jose, 1-0.
Last meeting: San Jose 4-3 in 1995 first round.
SAN JOSE: Survived a scare when 3-0 series lead against Colorado became 3-2. But three second-period goals and a 28-save effort by Evgeni Nabokov in Game 6 put the Sharks in Western Conference finals for the first time. Vincent Damphousse has paced the offense with five goals and six assists, receiving plenty of help from captain Patrick Marleau -- who has chipped in seven goals and three assists. Defense is what beat the high-powered Avalanche, however, as the Sharks held them to just seven goals. San Jose was behind in the series for only 21 minutes, losing consecutive games in overtime. Nabokov has given up 15 goals in 11 games, posting a 1.34 GAA and a save percentage of nearly 95. Rookie forward Niko Dimitrakos has emerged with a goal and eight assists, leaving him just behind Damphousse and Marleau for the team points lead. Won two home games against Calgary in regular season and dropped both road matchups.
CALGARY: Martin Gelinas, who ended Detroit series with overtime goal, scored three goals in four regular-season games against Sharks. But all eyes are on captain Jarome Iginla, who has shown his leadership with inspired play. He has six goals and six assists to share NHL playoff points lead. When Iginla is not on the ice, G Miikka Kiprusoff draws attention. Acting like this year's Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Kiprusoff -- traded to Calgary by the Sharks in November for a second-round draft pick -- has a 1.92 GAA and a .931 save percentage, shouldering the whole load through 13 postseason games. The Flames dominated on special teams during the regular season against the Sharks, going 4-for-20 on the power play and allowing just one goal in 14 short-handed situations. So far in the postseason, they haven't enjoyed similar success -- scoring seven power-play goals and allowing 11. Calgary has had more playoff success than San Jose, including winning the 1989 Stanley Cup. But the Flames hadn't reached the second round again until now.
OUTLOOK: Flames feel they have destiny on their side, but the Sharks will complete their amazing turnaround.
Prediction: Sharks in 6.